We'll Eat You Up

food, adventure, stories, and coming back to the people we love

What C.S. Lewis would have thought about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, both world-renowned authors of some of the most timeless fantasy literature ever written, were good friends with each other. They were both a members of the infamous group of writers and thinkers called The Inklings, and Tolkien even had a hand in Lewis’ conversion to Christianity.

 So what would Tolkien’s good buddy think of the latest installment of The Hobbit movie trilogy?

from Tolkienbooks.net

 Before I continue, I must first admit my own bias: The Hobbit is my all-time favorite book. I read it first when I was twelve years old and it was the reason I decided I wanted to become a writer. Therefore, I have admittedly high standards for its cinema reproduction.

 But I don’t think I’m alone here.

 In 1966 C.S. Lewis published an essay entitled, “On Stories.” In the essay, Lewis describes a conversation he had with a friend about a novel by James Fenimore Cooper (author of Last of the Mohicans). His friend was telling Lewis how the suspense and excitement in the stories kept him coming back for more of Cooper’s work. Lewis, however, had a different opinion. Cooper’s stories had a certain flavor, he argued, a certain specificness, which distinguished them from other novels with the same level of adventure, suspense, and action.

 He writes, “For I [want] not the momentary suspense but the whole world to which it belonged – the snow and snow-shoes, beavers and canoes, warpaths and wigwams, and Hiawatha names. Thus there must be a pleasure in such stories distinct from mere excitement.” [italics mine]

Tolkien’s illustration of Smaug the dragon

 I think Lewis might have said the same about the latest rendition of The Hobbit. The movie’s plotline was majorly adjusted from the book to keep the excitement flowing and the action high, but in the process it left out the specific flavors of the story, becoming merely a flash from one thrilling episode to the next.

I am not a book purist. I am well aware that translating a book into a movie involves a fair amount redefining plot to better fit the screen, and The Desolation of Smaug was excellently filmed and casted. The action certainly kept me interested, yet it failed to do anything but keep me interested.  It failed to fascinate, to draw me into its world – the colors and tastes and personalities of Middle Earth as Tolkien first penned them. Which is why I fell in love with The Hobbit in the first place. The film bought too heavily into the idea that viewers want nothing more than action and excitement and in doing so left out the best parts of the story.

“Nearly everyone makes the assumption that ‘excitement’ is the only pleasure they ever give or are intended to give. In some such books, and for some readers, another factor comes in,” continues Lewis in his essay. “…What is said to be the most ‘exciting’ novel in the world, The Three Musketeers, makes no appeal to me at all. The total lack of atmosphere repels me. There is no country in the book – save as a storehouse of inns and ambushes. There is no weather. When they cross to London there is no feeling that London differs from Paris. There is not a moment’s rest from the ‘adventures’: one’s nose is kept ruthlessly to the grindstone. It means nothing to me.

Seriously? The movie is titled “The Hobbit” and the poster depicts two elves? (And I always thought Legolas was overrated…)

“If I am alone in this experience then, to be sure, the present essay is of merely autobiographical interest. But I am pretty sure that I am not absolutely alone. I write on the chance that some others may feel the same and in the hope that I may help them to clarify their own sensations.”

 Well, that makes two of us, at least.

 PostScript: (In which I make several tangent-y yet important points):

I’ve seen a similar trend in a lot of movies lately. Adaptations of classical mythologies or literature are common, and while I love the idea, I get frustrated when the directors simply use the plot from a classic story as a platform for an action movie.

Please, movie-makers, we have enough mind-numbing scene-strobing action movies. They’re great. We love them. We watch them all the time. But sometimes we want something meatier – and that’s when we turn to the classics. So stop watering down the plot of a rich, timeless story just because you’re too lazy to come up with your own plot. Either faithfully capture the spirit* of the brilliant artists who came before you, or be artists in your own right and come up with your own story.

*Again, I’m not a book purist. You can capture the spirit of a movie without copying it word for word. For instance, I believe the film adaptation of Prince Caspian did a fairly good job of this, though the next installment, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, dissapeared into the black island oblivion of sloppily done and utterly forgettable films.

Another PostScript

For those of you who haven’t read The Hobbit, (or for those of you up in arms that I didn’t like the film) here are a few important bits The Desolation of Smaug left out:

 > The dwarves’ unforgettable and hilarious one-by-one entry into Beorn’s house (a trick Gandalf seems to employ often when introducing a dozen dwarves to a jumpy, middle-aged comfort-loving creature.)

 > Image-rich scenes in Mirkwood, such as the foreboding Black Hart, Bombour’s near-death in an enchanted stream, and the elves’ midnight lantern-and bonfire-lit revelries deep within the forest –some of the most unforgettable images from the pages of Tolkien’s story.

 > The portrayal of the dragon, while visually perfect, left out a key element of Smaug’s personality. he real Smaug had two vices: there was a chink in his gold-armor and he was too easily flattered.  Bilbo used the latter to his advantage and Tolkien to ours, creating the most mesmerizing conversation since his famous Gollum escapade. (Think about it – if you were a gold-hoarding dragon, falling prey to flattery could easily be one of your top vices!)

Wolftree

I got to collaborate with an artist friend of mine (Brook, an amazing photographer!) and our project (which involves a lot of pie) appeared on wolftree a couple of weeks ago. Take a look!

IMG_6762

just some silliness, really

minimalist with bacon

brown butter, snickerdoodles, and a picture of dinosaur cookies

So…you remember my favorite blog? eatthispoem?

Today I was featured, along with a delicious (i can vouch for this because I just baked some) recipe for Pumpkin Snickerdoodles. And my poem…remember the one about cookies?

Read the whole post: poem and recipe – here!
Nichole Gulotta did a fantastic job with the contest entries/recipes, and I’m very thankful to have been featured on such a neat blog.

There is also a downloadable anthology of a bunch of poems from the eat this poem poetry contest. I’ve read a few so far, and plan to enjoy the rest with a cup of hot chocolate. My favorite part was a short preface to the recipe:

“I only have two philosophies when it comes to baking.
1. If you’re going to melt the butter, you may as well brown it.
2. Baking is for sharing”

Perfection!

IMG_6523

IMG_7207

(find the recipe here!)

‘Keturah and Lord Death’ and Rhubarb Meringue Pie

A fairy tale happened to me – I was the told instead of the teller.

IMG_6720

I didn’t use to like lemon-flavored desserts. Lemon bars, lemon cookies, lemon meringue pie…not my thing.

Until I read Keturah and Lord Death.

“Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself,” says Donald Miller. I know he’s right.  I watched “My Fair Lady” and thought the ending was depressing until my grandma told me it was her favorite movie. “I just love how Eliza comes back to Henry,” she told me, a twinge of nostalgia in her voice. So I watched it again with her eyes – and it started a transformation — not only my opinion of the movie but the way I see story endings in general.

Keturah transformed my view of lemons. And meringue, for that matter. (My view of pie is still that it is the most amazing dessert ever invented.)

Keturah, who lived in a medieval village around the time of the Plague,  was only good at two things: Making pies and telling stories.

I’m pretty sure we’d get along well together.

One day, she wandered too far into the forest and met Lord Death himself. To save her life, she tells him a desperate story…a love story. Her story. He releases her on the condition that she return again the next evening to finish the story. And then – he falls in love with her.

Okay okay, I can’t give away too much. Through a strange but logical sequence of events, it comes down to this: to save herself from the clutches of Lord Death, Keturah must find her true love by winning the town cooking contest and consequently a husband.  (I know – not the most politically correct way to score a hubby.) Up against the best cook in the village, Keturah must resort to finding something totally unique – something her town has never seen or tasted before.

Lemons.

This is the passage that change my mind about them:

“I cooked and tasted and cooked more and tasted more, and at last I had a filling that was not too sweet and not too tart. That was for the sun. For the topping, I whipped egg whites and sugar until they fluffed like summer-day clouds, and then I baked. Finally I had a pie that I knew would make every man in the village fond of me.”

(My mouth is watering!)

Martine Leavitt started to write the story while studying for her MFA at Vermont College. She toyed with which way to end the story, and I have to say the first time I read it, I thought the one she chose was awful. (Hint: Keturah finds her true love, but it’s not anyone she expected!)

The second time around (several years later) I think I liked the ending much better. I’ve always been drawn to self-aware stories – meaning there is a keen awareness that the reader very likely loves stories, and the author/narrator draws upon that common love. These are often stories with poignant, delightful narrators, and with the idea of ‘story’ itself holding a sort of redemptive power.  (The Tale of Despereaux and The Book Thief are a few other examples.)  Keturah’s stories save her life, and she is awed to find herself living in a fairy tale too.

I think, second-round, that the story has strong and beautiful insights about death. (Ironically, so does The Tale of Despereaux, which plays death as a central theme, and The Book Thief, whose narrator is Death himself!). “Power” and “Beauty” might be strange words to attribute to such a scary inevitable force, but Leavitt casts vivid beams of light on the concept of death giving meaning and richness to our life.

Isn’t that what stories are? Juxtaposition between good and bad, right and wrong, life and death? Though it took Martine Leavitt and lemons to help me realize this, I know that we love stories because life is so fragile. And that makes it very, very precious.

IMG_6726

Even though my tastes changed several years ago, I’d never actually made a meringue pie until very recently. My friend Emily (who bakes with me a lot) came over and we made something totally unique: a rhubarb meringue pie. You can some more pictures here and the recipe here).

PS I can think of a few other author who have a lot of amazingness to say about fairy tales and the life of mortals. (coughLewisTolkienChesterton)

What story have you read that helps you see your own life as something miraculous and beautiful?

This is our kind of party

This is our kind of party

check out her post!

My friend Emily’s account of our last Scribblous reunion. It makes my heart stop a little bit to know I was actually in such a beautiful place with such beautiful souls! 

IMG_6455

Mac n’ Cheese: the Naked Recipe

Macaroni and cheese is a great go-to food. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it tastes amazing! The problem? Our “Easy Mac” is usually made with “processed cheese food” – brand names like Velveeta and Kraft sell a product that resemble cheese, even taste a bit like cheese, but are actually über-processed and filled with chemical preservatives and cheap fillers. Yuck.

My husband is one of those staunch Kraft Mac n’ Cheese guys – which is why I took the challenge to find a recipe that he liked better than the famous blue box. But is it possible to mimic the delicious creamy taste with *ahem* real food??

I submit that it is!
Today I want to share my discovery with you.

IMG_6377

Today is also the day 200 bloggers are participating in Food Bloggers Against Hunger – raising awareness for different aspects of hunger and poverty in America. It’s in response to the recent documentary A Place At the Table, which delves into many of the problems surrounding the issue.

As I read up on these problems, the one that caught my attention the most was regarding government-subsidized crops.  Here’s the issue: the government is subsidizing crops like soy beans, wheat, and corn, which are used to make highly-processed, preservative-stuffed junk foods. (think: the high fructose corn syrup and soybean oil that shows up in all our salad dressings)  This means that the most affordable food is often the unhealthiest. Bad news for those with slim budgets!

I’ve just started looking into all the implications of this issue — I first heard about it last summer when I worked at Shared Legacy Farms, and it’s also something I’ve run into as a newlywed trying to manage a family budget and still eat healthy food. A lot of the pieces haven’t come together yet, and I still have  a lot to learn.

But what I DO know: (And why I’m participating in Food Bloggers Against Hunger):

>Eating right makes a huge difference in your quality of life.
>Healthy food means real food.  The less processed, the better.
> I don’t believe the government can fix all of our problems, but I do believe they have a responsibility to use their power and influence with integrity.
>Each one of us also has a responsibility to use our knowledge and resources to the best of our ability.
>Sometimes it’s the small steps that can make the biggest difference: choosing to use the resources you have as wisely as you can.

So. For my contribution to Food Bloggers Against Hunger, I want to give you a simple resource. If you or someone you know is trying to take steps from packaged, processed foods to a healthier lifestyle, I present to you:

THE RECIPE: Mac n’ Cheese: the Naked Version
This recipe takes less time and less ingredients than a box of Kraft Mac N’ Cheese, but still has that irresistible oozy, gooey cheesy taste. The price is also comparable, as it makes more and is more filling than the Kraft box of limp noodles and blazing orange powder. This recipe is husband-bonafide: he admitted he liked it better than Kraft Mac n’ Cheese!

True story.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup whole milk  + 1  cup water (~17 cents)
1 box of small shells or macaroni noodles (~$1)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (~$2.75)
salt (~.1)

Bring the milk/water combination to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot, stirring constantly. (the milk burns easily if you don’t watch it closely). When it boils, add enough pasta to be just covered by the milk.

IMG_6338

Boil about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until noodles are soft and the milk is thickened and reduced to a creamy saucelike consistency.

IMG_6350

Add 2 cups cheddar and stir till melted.

 IMG_6351

Salt to taste. Serve immediately.

IMG_6356

Doesn’t it look delicious!? And while you’re at it, do some more research on your own if this piques your interest. As they say,

Be wise, be well!

IMG_6366

blueberries and poetry

I just discovered a blog.
It’s called eat this poem. It’s about (can you guess?) food, and poetry.

OH YES.

IMG_3396

Twist bread in a cast iron pot. Just because.

So, while I’m over here figuring out what to do with my life and with my blog (or lack thereof!), go eat some poetry for a while. That’s what I’ll be doing.

{such as this post about blueberry pancakes, two things very dear to my heart for so many reasons!}

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 736 other followers